The Abortion Connection
By Celeste McGovern
In Canada, a number of vaccines are grown on human cells from aborted fetuses. The new chicken pox vaccine made by Merck Frosst Pharmaceuticals is grown on the MRC-5 cell line derived from the normal lung tissue of a 14-week-old male fetus aborted "for psychiatric reasons." So are the polio and hepatitis A vaccines. The rubella virus in the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) three-in-one shot is grown on the WI-38 cell line-developed in 1961 from an aborted three-month-old female fetus.
For some abortion opponents this is a problem: can they, in good conscience, vaccinate themselves and their children when they are trying to avoid all connection with abortion? Some wonder if vaccines made on such ethical shortcuts can really be beneficial anyway.
For Calgary pharmacist Maria Bizecki, the vaccine-abortion connection was a red flag. She followed the routine immunization schedule with her children, who will turn three and one this month, until she learned about MRC-5 and the MMR. "I don't think it's a grave sin or anything," she says. "It's a risk-benefit assessment." Already questioning the safety of the jab because of recent studies linking it to bowel disorders, Mrs. Bizecki, a Roman Catholic and member of Pharmacists for Life, was tipped against vaccinating. "I don't trust drug companies to begin with," says the pharmacist. "Most of the time they have a conflict of interest in reporting adverse reactions of a vaccine. This just makes them even more questionable."
But Mrs. Bizecki is not "anti-vaccine." She's angry that pharmaceuticals don't use less controversial alternatives available. "I've talked to a lot of parents that have concerns about this," she says. Enough parents had asked questions about it in England and Wales in 1994 that the Catholic Bishops" Conference there prepared a briefing paper. Catholic parents "have no general obligation to refuse the vaccination," it reads. However, it calls vaccine use of aborted fetal tissue "a kind of evil which is widespread in biomedical research and which people rightly think they should combat when they can." The "practice of medicine is being made parasitic on [the] evils" of abortion and fetal experimentation, it adds, and refusing vaccination is one "way of seeking to turn medicine from a course which will increasingly subvert people's confidence in it."
If people become comfortable with the "regrettable origins of these vaccines," notes Daniel Maher of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Boston, "it will become more difficult to maintain the distinction between the use of existing fetal cell lines for vaccines and the use of fetal tissue for research and transplantation." Research dependence on fetal tissue could "soon grow so powerful financially," he adds, that there would be little hope of ever reducing abortion.
The U.S. Congress is to begin hearings this month into a lucrative trade in aborted fetal parts that has recently been connected to at least one Canadian tax-funded laboratory, as well as to vaccine manufacturers such as Smith Kline Beecham Pharmaceuticals. In 1993, Canada's Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies reported that aborted fetal tissue is used routinely by Canadian pharmaceuticals-primarily for vaccine and viral research.
ABORTED FETAL CELL USE IN RUBELLA VACCINES: A MEDICAL AND ETHICAL CONFLICT
by Laurence F. Roberge, M.S.
Recent media reports from England and from the group, Ohio Parents for Vaccine Safety, have stirred a conflict amongst pro-life groups. In England, a Catholic prep school refused to participate in the British government program to vaccinate children against Rubella (German Measles) because the Rubella component was originally derived from aborted babies.(1) Dr. Kristine Severyn, director of the Ohio Parents group, reported that the US version of the Rubella vaccine (MERUVAX, manufactured by Merck & Co.) also is manufactured with components originating from aborted fetuses. (2) This conflict is further complicated by the fact that no vaccine alternative exist in the United States. In the UK a Rubella vaccine made from chicken egg exists, but it is less reliable and is subject to serious side effects.
Over the past 50 years, vaccine technology has provided children and adults with protection from epidemics that kill or permanently injure. Rubella,although not usually fatal if contracted during childhood, can severely injure or kill a preborn child during the first trimester of the pregnancy. Children born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome may be blind, deaf, mentally retarded, or have heart defects.
Vaccine Production: During the 1964 Rubella epidemic, many women were advised to abort babies if the moths contract Rubella during pregnancy. The Rubella virus strain, RA 27/3, was obtained from an infected aborted fetus. (3) Since the 60's, this virus strain has been used as the chief component of the Rubella vaccine. To make this vaccine, the Rubella virus is cultivated in a weakened or "attenuated" state, so as to not cause the disease but to stimulate an immune response in the recipient and prevent subsequent Rubella infections.
The production of the Rubella virus requires the culture of human cells, referred to as a cell line. As the human cells grow in a specific nutrient-rich solution (AKA culture medium), the virus grows within the cells and is later released into the culture medium.. The virus is purified from the medium for subsequent use as a vaccine. The human cell lines used in Rubella vaccine manufacture were obtained in the 60's from aborted fetuses. Human cell line WI-38 was obtained from the lung of an aborted 3 month old female fetus.(4) Another cell line used is MRC-5 obtained from the lung of a 14-week old male aborted fetus in 1966 (5) Most other vaccines produced do not require human cell lines. Only viral vaccines require cells within which the virus will reproduce. Many viral vaccines (e.g. Polio, Mumps) can use chicken embryos or monkey kidney cell lines. Bacterial vaccines (e.g. Diphtheria, Tetanus) require the cultivation of the bacteria in a culture medium only.
Moral Issues: Various moral dilemmas arise from this issue. A position adopted by the bioethics committee of the British Catholic Bishops' conference stated that there is considerable separation between the abortion act and the current production of the vaccine.(6) Since the tissue was removed after the aborted fetus was clinically dead, individuals involved in the vaccine production were not involved in the abortion. As long as there is no support for abortion, then it would be morally acceptable for individuals to use the vaccine. The British Catholic Media Office stated that Catholic teaching would oppose the development of new vaccines, therapies, and studies from aborted fetal tissue. Catholic teaching is clear that we may never do harm so that good may come of it. Unfortunately many would be tempted to justify or reduce the evil of abortion with the reasoning that aborted tissue saves lives. This reasoning could be used to make palatable future abortions used for harvesting fetal tissue for research or medical products.
This issue is further complicated in light of the fact that tissue from "spontaneous abortions" is useless for cell culture for vaccine manufacture. This is because the cause of the spontaneous abortion (e.g. viral or bacterial infection, chromosome defect, etc.) would render the tissue useless for the strict standards of vaccine manufacture. Also, the present stocks of cell lines will eventually be depleted in the future. Yet if the population is not maintaining a certain level of vaccinations, the return of viral epidemics may become a reality. Future vaccine manufacturing needs may require development and testing of new cell lines. Eventually, we may see cell biologists return to experiment on aborted fetuses to obtain them.
Alternatives: Fortunately, alternatives to fetal cell lines do exist for some vaccines. These included use of animal-based cell lines, such as monkey cell lines or chicken embryo egg culture. Further research is warranted, especially as the vaccine needs of our society increase with the appearance of new diseases and the development of antibiotic resistance by known disease organisms. The greatest promise to remove fetal tissue completely from the vaccine picture lies in biotechnology. At present, the viral vaccine for Hepatitis B is made from yeast. Since the Hepatitis B virus is difficult to culture, biotechnology used a protein from the outer coat of the virus as the vaccine. This protein is made from yeast that has the gene for the Hepatitis B protein inserted into the yeast genetic code. The yeast is easily cultured and subsequently the protein is extracted, purified and packaged.
It will be dependent upon Catholic and other pro-life advocates to encourage (or pressure, if necessary) the vaccine industry and government regulatory agencies (e.g. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, British Ministry of Health, etc.) to adopt alternative strategies to avoid returning to aborted fetuses for vaccine components. Encouraging alternative vaccine research for vaccine development will provide a strong incentive to dissuade the future justification of further abortions and fetal research for vaccine components.
1) "Catholic School Refuses Vaccinations," Milwaukee Sentinel, 27 Oct 1994 "Rubella Vaccine Creates Problems," Daily Citizen, 17 Nov 1994 "Vaccine Breeds Moral Dilemmas In Britain," Daily Citizen, 19 Nov 1994 "Rubella Vaccine Riles Pro-Lifers," Sunday Star-Times (NZ) 27 Nov 1994 "Shot Down:Prep School Rejects Rubella Vaccine," AtlantaConstitution 27 Nov 1994
2) "Aborted Babies Used As Source For Rubella Vaccine," Press Release OPVS 251 W. Ridgeway Drive, Dayton, OH 45459, tel: 513-435-4750 9 Dec 1994
3) S.A. Plotkin, "Development of RA 27/3 attenuated rubella virus grown in WI-38 cells," International Symposium on Rubella Vaccines, London 1968: Symp. Series Immunobio Standard., 11,249-260, Karger, Basel/New York 1969.
4) L. Hayflick and P.S. Moorhead, "The serial cultivation of human diploid cell strains," Exp. Cell Res. 25 (1961), 585-621
5) J.P. Jacobs, "Characteristics Of A Human Diploid Cell Designated MRC5",Nature 227 (1970 168-170
6) M. Jarmulowicz, "Use of Fetal Cell Lines In Vaccine Production," CMO, Nov1994 26-28
VACCINES AND THEIR SOURCE CELL LINES (From the Physicians Desk Reference
49ED. (Medical Economics: Montvalle, NJ, 1995)
BIAVAX (binary vaccine) (Rubella & Mumps):
WI-38 (fetal cell line) uses RA 27/3 virus derived from fetus for the Rubella part of the vaccine.
MURUVAX: WI-38 (fetal cell line) uses RA 27/3 virus derived from fetus
MUMPS: uses chick embryo cell line
POLIO: uses bacterial culture
HEMAPHILLUS B: uses bacterial culture
PERTUSSIS: uses bacterial culture
TETANUS: uses bacterial culture
Vaccines From Aborted Children
By Yvonne Bontkowski
Published 10. 3. 02 at 20:40 Sierra Time
Aside from the issue of dangers of vaccination, which many vaccination groups and parents have addressed. A growing number of pro-life people are also taking a stand against vaccinations derived from deliberately aborted children. Yes, you heard right, vaccines from aborted children.
For over 30 years the pharmaceutical companies in this country have been producing vaccines derived from tissues of aborted fetuses, a fact that was brought to light only in the late 1990's. When the source of the vaccines were revealed, many principled individuals objected and with good reason. As the information has continued to become more and more public, a large number of physicians and parents are highly troubled by the ethical issues involved.
During the Rubella Epidemic of 1964, some doctors advised exposed pregnant women to abort their children. The resulting virus strain developed was known in the science world as RA/27/3. Where R=Rubella A=Abortus 27=27th fetus tested 3=3rd Tissue explant. There were 26 abortions prior to finding the "right" species with the active virus. (This was absolutely unnecessary as the Japanese proved by swabbing the throat of an infected child in order to obtain the virus.) The vaccine was then cultivated on the lung tissue of yet another aborted infant WI-38. WI-38 (Wistar Institute 38) was taken from the lung tissue of an aborted female infant at 3 months gestation in the 1960's. a second human cell line, MRC-5 was derived from a male at 14 weeks gestation in the 1970's. They were used to cultivate the weakened virus strains of several diseases to produce immunizations. These two human cell lines cultivated in the lab continue to provide an ongoing source for many widely used childhood vaccines.
Because the pharmaceutical industry has perceived a public acceptance of the current vaccines, they are continuing to utilize both the existing aborted fetal cell lines- and fresh sources- in order to create new vaccines. After the Sept. 11th attacks, the federal government sought out contracts to develop a new smallpox vaccine. Despite the fact that the FDA and CDC had acknowledged several cell substrates would be acceptable for growing the virus, when the award was granted to Acambis Inc., they opted to use the MRC-5 aborted fetal cell line. After thousands of angry protests flooded our government offices, 30 days later a second contract was awarded to Acambis/Baxter, but this time, aborted fetal tissue would not be utilized.
More disturbing is the pharmaceutical industry's latest trend to begin using a new fetal cell line named PER C6, created by Dutch pharmaceutical, Crucell, NV. This cell line was taken from the retinal tissue of an 18 week gestation baby, aborted because, according to Dr. Van Der Eb at recent FDA hearings, "the father was unknown and the woman wanted to get rid of the fetus". Dr. Van Der Eb went on to say, "PER C6 was made just for the pharmaceutical manufacturing of adenovirus vectors." He added, "I realize that this sounds a bit commercial, but PER C6 were made for that particular purpose."
The most important fact is that vaccines can and must be made from other sources other than tissues from aborted fetuses. While the safety issue is important to all parents and physicians, the use of aborted fetal tissue is important to the pro-life movement and those parents who rightly refuse these vaccinations based on moral conscience. Parents are being denied exemptions across this country because of mandates. It is time the parents earn back the "right to chose" what is best for their children, whether it be on moral grounds or from the safety issues that surround these vaccines.
Yvonne Bontkowski, Associate Director
Children of God for Life,IL Chapter
2-Nov-2001 -- EWTN Pro-Family News
A New Smallpox Vaccine From Abortions?
(EWTNews) - The Washington Post announced the award of a contract for the development of a new smallpox vaccine to Oravax/Acambis Corporation. The proposal presented to the CDC and FDA would encompass using "human fibroblasts." In checking the proposed ingredients through the CDC it was found that they intend to use aborted fetal cell line MRC-5 as the cell substrate for growing the virus. The CDC report also stated that other established animal substrates such as chick embryo, (used in Rabies vaccine) Vero Cell Lines and FRHL-2 Cell lines were viable alternatives as well. The FDA stated that they have verified the reports, but also indicated they would most likely use more than one manufacturer and no final decisions have been made. "We do know that testing has already begun using MRC-5 in Phase 1 trials." Says Debi Vinnedge, spokesperson for the Children of God for Life, a Pro-Life outreach source. "For over 30 years, our country has been quietly producing vaccines from human cell lines derived from abortion. There are six commonly used vaccines: Polio, Rabies, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), Chickenpox and Hepatitis-A all of which were propagated from the lung tissue of two aborted babies, one male, one female. Of these, three have NO ALTERNATIVE SOURCE: Rubella (MMR-Measles, Mumps, Rubella), Chickenpox and Hepatitis-A. It is not that the pharmaceutical companies had to use aborted children as their source; they simply opted to do so. The United Kingdom was successful in obtaining alternatives for both Rubella and Hepatitis-A, but these products are not available in the United States and unless there is a market, there is little incentive for the pharmaceutical companies to respond." " Immediate action is needed now!" states Debi. " We do not want our families being forced by the government to use a critical vaccine that is derived from aborted fetal tissue." "If there is an epidemic or national crisis, you will NOT be able to use religious exemptions. Please express your concern. Ask that the policy makers consider the moral consciences of hundreds of thousands of Americans who have already voiced their objection to the currently used vaccines derived from aborted fetal tissue."
HOW THE VACCINES ARE DEVELOPED
Before explaining why these two basic points and their accompanying arguments are flawed, it is helpful to review what essentially is involved in the development of these vaccines. In his article, "The Moral Implications of Fetal Tissue Vaccines" (available at http://www.all.org), Steven Kellmeyer explains:
"In order to produce a bacterial or a viral vaccine, laboratory personnel must have large quantities of the bacterium or virus in question. Fortunately, bacteria can be grown in large quantities simply by giving them the equivalent of chicken broth. Unfortunately a virus, a simple strand of DNA or RNA, isn't as capable. A virus needs cellular machinery, machinery it doesn't have, in order to reproduce. It must insinuate itself into a cell, hijacking the cell's machinery. To grow large quantities of virii, a tissue culture, essentially a vast "lawn" of cells which coat the inside of the flask like scales on a fish, must be prepared. The virus is placed in contact with the cell tissue, invades the cells, hijacks the cellular machinery, and reproduces itself. After large numbers of viruses have grown, they are removed from the cell culture, inactivated, and processed in order to produce the vaccine.
The problem is that viruses need good cells to hijack. The cells must provide excellent machinery for virus production, and be easy for the virus to invade. Two human cell lines used to produce cell cultures, WI-38 and MRC-5, have problematic origins. WI-38 is normal lung tissue taken from a three-month old female child aborted in Philadelphia in 1961. MRC-5 is normal lung tissue taken from a 14- week old male child aborted because a Swedish couple wanted no more children. Both cell lines support a broad range of rhinoviruses. Both are "immortal," which means they reproduce rapidly and self- consistently enough to remain essentially similar to the tissue taken from two dying bodies over thirty years ago."
FLAWED MORAL ARGUMENTS
If you examine the two basic points made by the arguments for the moral justification of these vaccines, you will notice that they are intimately related. 1) The first point (they are the only alternatives to treating the disease) is essentially a matter of arguing that they are morally justifiable because we NEED them. 2) The second point (the person receiving the vaccine does not WILL the abortion from which it is derived) is essentially a matter of arguing that, because the abortion at issue happened so long ago and that no further abortions are required for this vaccination, receiving the vaccination is morally justifiable.
The first point is flawed for a number of reasons. First of all, leaving it simply at saying that something is morally justifiable because I NEED it as a means to an end, and indeed, a good end ( preservation of one's life) is absolutely identical with the Machiavellian principle that the end justifies the means (or, that evil may be done in order to accomplish good) and, thus, absolutely
unacceptable and morally indefensible. Secondly, precisely because this Machiavellian principle is morally indefensible, one needs to examine the very thing needed in this particular case -- cell lines from aborted fetuses. To say that one NEEDS the cell lines of aborted fetuses to preserve one's life is inseparable from saying that one NEEDS the abortions -- intrinsically evil actions -- that make the cell lines available. And this is where the point of the first argument meets -- and betrays -- the point of the second argument.
To say that a person receiving this vaccination -- derived from a fetus aborted long ago -- does not WILL the abortion that makes the vaccination possible may well be true in the individual and isolated case of the person who does not know the origin of the vaccine. However, one cannot base the moral argumentation for a practice intended for the entire population upon the ignorance of this person or upon the correct moral behavior of the individual recipient of the vaccine. In fact, the second argument in favor of the moral justification of the use of these vaccines not only very clearly presupposes the knowledge of the origin of the vaccine, but also advocates that society in general adopt the use of this vaccine. With that knowledge in place, and with the institutionalization of the vaccine within the very fabric of society in place, to say that a person receiving this vaccination -- derived from a fetus aborted long ago -- does not WILL the abortion that makes the vaccination possible is patently false. If I NEED it (and it is a NEED that can be satisfied only by an aborted fetus) and I defend my NEED, I WANT it. The person receiving the vaccination may well be living long after the fetus was actually aborted, and had no involvement in and may even have no knowledge of the PARTICULAR and ACTUAL fetus that was aborted. However, the remoteness in time is not sufficient for arguing that there is no act of the will on the part of the recipient of the vaccine, even if only an elicited act of the will (an act of "pure will" within one's own soul that involves no bodily action whatsoever, and can be identical with passive acceptance).
On this issue, and so many like it, we desperately need to see more than a few feet in front of us. Thinking that we know what we NEED here and now does not necessarily mean that we do know or, therefore, that we should WANT it. This is why it would be wise to abide by the US Bishops' directive forbidding the use of tissue from aborted fetuses, even for therapeutic purposes. This is also why it would be wise to heed the directive of the Holy See's 1987 document, Donum Vitae (Gift of Life): "The corpses of human embryos and fetuses, whether they have been deliberately aborted or not, must be respected just as the remains of other human beings.... the moral requirements must be safeguarded, that there be no complicity in deliberate abortion and that the risk of scandal be avoided. Also, in the case of dead fetuses, as for the corpses of adult persons, all commercial trafficking must be considered illicit and should be prohibited."
Fr. Stephen F. Torraco
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 24, 2003
Glaxo SmithKline has announced its polio vaccine will be made using the MRC-5 aborted fetal cell line. Our counterparts in the United Kingdom recieved a reply from the company stating that "We are in the process of switing our production from monkey kidney cells to human diploid cells ( MRC5)."
While OPV is no longer distributed in the United States, if there was need to do so in the future because of an outbreak, this could present a problem. The current polio vaccine given to our children in the US is made by Aventis Pasteur and does not use aborted fetal cell lines. Call or write to protest this action - and threaten to boycott all Glaxo SmithKline products both here in the US and abroad.
Chris Viehbacher, President, Pharmaceuticals
1 Franklin Plaza
P.O. Box 7929
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Subject: Pro-life Groups Work to Have Merck Pharmaceuticals Reconsider Abortion-Tainted Vaccines
Pro-life Groups Work to Have Merck Pharmaceuticals Reconsider Abortion-Tainted Vaccines
27 babies deliberately aborted in controlled setting in order to extract live virus
NORTH BRANCH, NJ, May 3, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Human Life International and Children of God for Life joined forces as a Merck Shareholder Meeting last month winning enough votes to have their pro-life resolution considered.
"As stockholders in Merck we are particularly distressed at the violation of human rights that occurred in the early 1960s in the development of two cell lines, the RA 27/3 and the WI-38, which were used to create the MMR vaccine. We are even more distressed that this same pattern of human rights violations continues to take place with the PER-C6 cell line that Merck has taken license for in developing a new AIDS vaccine", said HLI's Fr. Euteneuer in his opening statements at the annual Merck Shareholder meeting on April 27th in North Branch, NJ.
He continued a relentless pounding of Merck's unethical behavior by admonishing the board, "The RA 27/3 obtained its tissue from the last in a line of 27 babies who were deliberately aborted in a controlled setting in order to extract the live virus. These cell lines were thus created at the cost of dozens of innocent human lives with the full knowledge of Merck researchers."
The room fell silent as Fr. Euteneuer concluded, "We ask Merck for two things: full disclosure about the nature of Merck's involvement in this gruesome business, and the withdrawal of the unethical vaccine from the market as soon as possible."
Debbie Vinnedge of Children of God for Life who surprised the fidgeting board members by stating, "On behalf of over half a million parents and medical professionals nationwide who have joined our Campaign for Ethical Vaccines, I would like to begin by thanking you Mr. Gilmartin and the members of the Board for bringing your ethically produced single dose measles and mumps vaccines back to the market last summer."
While the chairman of the meeting ignored the pro-lifers several shareholders told the meeting they were shocked by the revelations and demanded action. At the end of the meeting the pro-lifers had more than the necessary votes to continue to pursue the pro-life resolution.
Despite the victory, perhaps one of the most troubling aspects about the shareholder meeting came from the company's own admission that they had partnered with the Bill Gates Foundation, one of the larger supporters of Planned Parenthood worldwide, in order to fight the HIV epidemic in Africa. Merck intends to use the aborted fetal cell line PER C6 to develop its new HIV vaccine.
Read HLI's Full Statementt:
Read Children of God for Life's Statement http://www.cogforlife.org/merck2004board
(c) Copyright: LifeSite Daily News is a production of Interim Publishing. Permission to republish is granted (with limitation*) but acknowledgement of source is *REQUIRED* (use LifeSiteNews.com).
NEWS TIPS to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-787-9947 or (416) 204-1687 ext.444
Please help us to continue this service. Mail contributions to: Interim Publishing, Att'n LifeSite, 104 Bond St. E., Toronto, ON M5B 1X9 or contribute on line at http://www.lifesite.net/contribute/lifesite/
Diseases: - Vaccine - Manufacturer - Cell line (human fetal)
Polio: - Poliovax - Aventis-Pasteur - MRC-5
Measles, Mumps, Rubella: - MMR II - Merck & Co. - RA273 and WI-38
Measles-Rubella: - Biavax II - Merck & Co. - RA 273 and WI-38
Rubella only: - MR-VAX - Merck & Co. - RA 273 and WI-38
Rabies: - Imovax - Vantis-Pasteur - MRC-5
Havrix - Merck & Co. - MRC-5
Vaqta - GlaxoSmithKline - MRC-5
Hepatitis A-B combo: - Twinrix - GlaxoSmithKline - MRC-5
Chickenpox: Varixax - Merck & Co. - WI-38 and MRC-5
Smallpox - Acambix 1000 - Acambis - MRC-5
Ebola: - Unknown (still waiting for trial) - Crucell & N.I.H. - PER C6
HIV Unknown: - (still waiting for trial) - Merck & Co. - PER C6
Sepsis Xigris: - Eli Lilley - HEK 293
Influenza (flu): - unknown - MedImmune - PER C6
Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Chickenpox ProQuad 01 Aug 05 measles-mumps-rubella-varicella vaccine
Articles on Vaccines from Aborted Fetal Tissue...
MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH
Coast Guard forces vaccine derived from aborted child Catholic officer sues to prevent injection – top brass disputes theology, demands jab
Posted: January 13, 2008
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2008 WorldNetDaily.com
A U.S. Coast Guard officer and devout Catholic has filed suit to prevent being forced to receive a vaccination derived from the lung of an aborted child after a higher ranking officer disputed his understanding of Church theology.
The Alliance Defense Fund filed a complaint last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Healy, charging the government with using its own arbitrary judgment of what constitutes Catholic theology while permitting religious exemptions to others, effectively discriminating against Healy's sincerely held religious beliefs.
Healy's request for religious exemption cited a 2005 letter from the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life which condemned the use of cell lines from abortions in vaccines and supported Catholics' right to refuse them while not requiring them to reject the medicines. In May, 2007, Capt. Brent Pennington rejected Healy's request, saying Catholic teaching "does not state that these immunizations are against the religious tenets of the Catholic Church."
"Please note that the refusal to be vaccinated or failure to comply with a lawful order to be vaccinated is a violation of Coast Guard regulations," Pennington wrote Healy. "Any member who refuses to be vaccinated or fails to comply with a lawful order to be vaccinated is subject to military proceedings under [the Uniform Code of Military Justice] or other appropriate administrative proceedings at the unit commander's discretion." All members of the Coast Guard must be vaccinated against a broad spectrum of diseases. The requirement for all active-duty personnel to be inoculated against Hepatitis A was instituted in May 2006.
While a vaccine derived from animal sources is awaiting FDA approval, the immunization procedure currently available in the U.S. is based on lung cells taken from an elective abortion performed at 14 weeks approximately 40 years ago.
"Those who lay their life on the line to defend our shores are entitled to the same religious freedoms as anyone else," said ADF attorney Matt Bowman, according to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. "Members of the U.S. military should never be forced to make an unconstitutional choice between honoring their country and honoring their faith." Healy is a long-time opponent of abortion and is listed on a Coast Guard website as the contact for an October 2006 pro-life awards banquet held in Glen Burnie, Md. Healy is stationed at the Coast Guard facility in Alexandria, Va.
(Story continues below)
ADF argues that Pennington's refusal of a religious exemption amounts to a governmental definition of Roman Catholic theology. The letter submitted by Healy from the Pontifical Academy for Life was prompted by an inquiry from a Florida Catholic group concerned that the Church had no formal statement in opposition to such vaccines – a fact that could be used by schools to deny religious exemptions for Catholics who refused to vaccinate their children.
The academy's paper, "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses," was published in May 2005 after having been approved by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. While the document condemned "every form of formal cooperation" – the original abortion 40 years ago and the development of the vaccine – as well as the "passive material cooperation" of those marketing it four decades on, it distinguished the "very remote mediate material cooperation" of doctors and parents who, through lack of options, resort to the medicines for reasons of health – particularly public health – even though they know their origin.
"We are responsible for all people, not just ourselves," Msgr. Jacques Suaudeau, a medical doctor and official at the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Catholic News Service. "If it is a question of protecting the whole population and avoiding death and malformation in others, that is more important," he said. According to Debi Vinnedge, head of the Catholic group, Children of God for Life, "members of the Lutheran Church" are more likely to be given exemptions for their children in Florida schools because their denomination has "a stronger statement" concerning the immorality of using such vaccines.
"We need a stronger statement" if Catholics are to get the exemption, she said. While the Academy's ambiguity and failure to forge a stronger statement may have contributed to Pennington's denial, he also cited the opinion of the National Catholic Bioethics Center that receiving such a vaccine does not constitute cooperation with abortion. Healy's attorney notes his client never cited NCBC, a non-authoritative Catholic group, and argues Pennington, in his governmental capacity, was defining what constitutes orthodox Catholic theology. It's "most troubling that the government would decide some religions get exemptions and others do not based on their own arbitrary judgments," said ADF's Bowman.
"We asked the court to step in because, at any moment, he could be ordered to be vaccinated," Bowman told the Washington Times. "He is not asking for special treatment – he is simply saying the Coast Guard cannot disfavor his religion over the beliefs of others when it offers religious exemptions," Mr. Bowman said.